Getting enough sleep can be a game changer when it comes to both an individual’s physical and mental health. This is especially true for teenagers.
Everyone knows that teenagers sleep a lot when possible, but how much sleep should a teenager actually get on average? In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the science behind sleep.
If your teenager is struggling to get enough sleep, click here to see more about contacting a counselor or another mental health professional for proper treatment and guidance.
The Recommended Amount
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person between the ages of 13-18 should be getting 8-10 consecutive hours of sleep per night. A study cited by the CDC in 2020 also mentions that 7 out of 10 teenagers do not get enough sleep nightly.
Surprisingly, elementary and middle schoolers need even more sleep than teenagers. According to the CDC, a person between the ages of 6-12 needs 9-12 hours of sleep per night.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why a child or teenager would not get the recommended amount of sleep. And, it’s quite possible that getting a restful sleep is even more difficult. This topic has been widely debated in school districts for years.
The Trouble with School
Across the board, most schools start around 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM. This is extremely early for children and adolescents and can make it quite challenging to adjust to the day.
Likewise, many children and adolescents might have trouble staying awake during class or might get tired in the middle of the day due to a lack of sleep.
The alternative? Go to bed early. That seems like an obvious solution. However, most adolescents have at least one after school activity followed by hours of homework. In some cases, schools assign six hours worth of homework a night.
Let’s do the math based on a hypothetical day in the life of a school-aged student.
- Attend school from roughly 7 AM to 3 PM.
- Participate in after school activities or transportation home (sports, clubs, etc.) from roughly 3 PM to 5 PM.
- Complete homework: the amount of work students do varies widely, but figures suggest that most students engage in 1-3 hours of homework per night. This may take place from late afternoon into the evening hours.
- The inclusion of other evening activities – eating meals, completing chores, night-time routines, etc. – can easily take a child to 7 or 8 PM, leaving little room for other activities.
- Students who begin school early may find themselves waking up as early as 5:30-6:30 AM.
With a schedule like that, an individual who is supposed to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night is likely to average 6.5 hours of sleep at the most.
Of course, there are plenty of adults who go to bed at midnight and wake up at 6:30am, and plenty of other iterations of that schedule. But for a developing mind, more sleep is paramount.
The ability to learn and absorb all the information provided in the classroom is maximized by proper sleep, nourishment, and balance.
Part of the problem with education today is an exceeded expectation for what an adolescent can accomplish in a given day or a given year.
The expectation to showcase excellence in advanced classes, to participate in multiple extracurricular activities, to do community service, to have a perfect GPA – these unrealistic expectations are decreasing the wellbeing of young people and inhibiting sleep, to say the least.
Struggles with mental health can also be problematic for getting a good night’s sleep. Anyone who experiences anxiety might also feel restless or show symptoms of insomnia at night-time.
Mental wellness is fundamentally intertwined with sleep. Leaving a mental health struggle unaddressed may also have an impact on a person’s sleep cycle.
How To Help
Your Circadian Rhythm
Know your sleep cycle. If you notice your body getting tired at 9pm and again at 11pm, that’s your circadian rhythm. If you can take advantage of those time periods, you’ll be able to maximize your sleep.
Turn off devices
Screen time stimulates the brain in a way that does not help it shut down. When you bring your devices into bed, you are not allowing yourself a proper transition from daytime to night-time.
Don’t work from bed
If you do homework or watch TV from your bed, your bed no longer becomes associated with being a place to sleep. It is now a place to work, a place to relax, and a place to sleep. This can create crossed wires for your brain when you try to utilize the space for multiple activities.
Guided meditations can be helpful for preparing to sleep. They can encourage you to shut down your mind and just observe your body. When you become more connected to your body and the surface you’re lying on, your heart rate slows down.
If you struggle to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, having a sound machine can really help set an ambiance purley associated with sleeping.
If you are a restless sleeper or tend to toss and turn in your sleep, you might consider trying a weighted blanket to help your body relax. It might not keep you in one position, but it can deter you from moving.